The first thing you notice about Colorado Wine Company’s new home three blocks west across Eagle Rock Boulevard is the boxes of wine. Stacked somewhat chaotically inside the store, they suggest a work in progress.
But the boxes don’t raise any eyebrows—certainly not from Eagle Rockers or those who know where to procure some of the best, most competitively priced wine and beer in Northeast L.A.
It has been a little more than two weeks since Eagle Rock’s premier wine store and bar relocated from 2114 Colorado Blvd. to 2305 Colorado, a relatively obscure spot roughly adjacent to the Bank of America and directly next to Planet Tobacco.
Eagle Rock Patch recently caught up with co-owner Jennifer Morgan to ask her about her store’s move to a far less glamorous location after seven years.
The move, said Morgan, who owns the store along with her husband John Nugent, was prompted by pressure from her previous landlord to increase the store’s rent.
“I think they were under the impression a bit, as a lot of landlords in Eagle Rock are, that it’s a bit of a profit-sharing arrangement—the better the business does the higher the rent is, kind of ad infinitum,” Morgan said.
It wasn’t as if Morgan and Nugent weren’t already paying through their teeth. “The rent was about triple of what we started at by the time we left,” said Morgan, adding that their business was doing well, although profits weren’t as good as they were before the 2008 recession.
Faced with rising rents and lower profit margins, the owners had been looking for an alternative space for years—four years to be precise. They found one somewhat serendipitously: An investment in Sunset Beer Company—a crafts beer store that Morgan and Nugent opened in 2011 in a partnership with another couple on Sunset Boulevard in Echo Park—led them to Paul Sislin, a noted commercial property owner. Not only does Sislin own the space where Sunset Beer Company is located (1428 W. Sunset Blvd.) but he owns a string of properties in Eagle Rock, including the land where the Coffee Table, Taco Spot, Lemongrass and Pilates Eagle Rock are located.
“He has been easy to work with and working with this kind of landlord is the difference between getting out of a business entirely and being able to continue it,” said Morgan of Sislin.
CoWineCo’s new space, which took a full year of "permitting and building," is about 200 sq. ft. smaller than the 1,200 square feet the store occupied earlier.
But the ceiling is higher and the new store has a decidedly less modernistic feel. “That’s what we were kind of going for—something that feels a little older than it actually is, especially since the architecture is a bit of art deco,” said Morgan, adding: “We worked with our designer, Rick Crane, who has worked on several other shops and restaurants and bars. This was his concept.”
Although parking is much easier to find, foot traffic along the stretch of Colorado between Bank of America and Eagle Rock Plaza is far less pronounced. And that’s a tradeoff not just any store in CoWineCo’s place could have survived.
“I think if we had been less established, this would have felt like a much riskier move,” Morgan said, recalling CoWineCo’s initial years on the block that includes 2114 Colorado Blvd., when “there was nothing else there, except for Camilo’s and the stained glass shop and an aquarium shop” that later closed, paving the way for Brownstone Pizzeria.
“But because we’re lucky—we’re blessed with clientele that is loyal, and we’re very proactive in our outreach and customer service with them, they’ve been coming en masse to shop with us.”
That alone is reason to celebrate. But since tradition does call for a re-opening party, Colorado Wine Company is having one on Saturday, Dec. 15. Of course, you don’t have to wait until then to visit the store, especially given that Morgan and Nugent like having you there on Friday nights during their cheese-paired wine tasting, wonderfully priced at $15 for five wines.
They also like Mondays.